Think Wan Chai is just The World of Suzie Wong, karaoke bars and neon lights? Well, think again. This pulsating district has its share of good-time joints and exotic nightlife, but the real news is its thrilling evolution into one of the city’s coolest, most dynamic areas, with a heady mix of old and new, and East meets West, and where hip bars and happening restaurants mix with old tenement buildings and hidden temples among the district’s towering skyscrapers.
Like much of Hong Kong, Wan Chai was once a small fishing village populated by Chinese settlers. Its strategic harbour-side location and proximity to the powers-that-be in Central during the 19th and 20th centuries, however, saw it develop from a spillover for workers and labourers to a wealthy commercial and cultural hub.
While Lee Tung Street, once lined with wedding stationery shops, has given way to an upscale mall, pockets of heritage still exist. It’s not just in the facade of the Bauhaus-era Wan Chai market, but in the maze of Wan Chai Road and Bowrington Road, where old-fashioned wet markets hum daily. It’s in tenement houses on Stone Nullah Lane and temples and shrines hidden in back lanes.
To get on trend, check out the chic boutiques and eats around Star Street and Ship Street in Wan Chai, cult designer stores on Leighton Road in Causeway Bay, and cool cafes and restaurants in the hip neighbourhood of Tai Hang.
Best explored on foot, Wan Chai District offers a wealth of heritage hideaways and modern hot spots — be they nightlife, dining, shopping or cultural — that make it an essential stop for any visitor.
Download the Wan Chai Heritage Trail map and take a tour of historic sites in Wan Chai.
Check out cool independent boutiques and happening restaurants around the Star Street precinct.
Head up to Bowen Road, built over old aqueducts, for panoramic views of the city.
Visit the F11 Foto Museum, housed in a heritage Art Deco building, with the world’s largest Leica camera collection.
See the colourful neon lights around Jaffe, Lockhart and Hennessy Roads before pre-dinner drinks at The Optimist.
No need to go to Central, you can take the Star Ferry from Wan Chai for a cruise around Victoria Harbour.